Business & industry

Economic optimism, which started 2012 on an upswing, fell to a 12-month low, according to the AICPA Business & Industry U.S. Economic Outlook Survey for the fourth quarter.

A big reason for the gloomier mood: Washington.

“The overwhelming majority of comments this quarter focused on the fiscal cliff and government or politics,” said the report, which polled CPAs who hold executive positions in companies across an array of industries. “Pessimists were most concerned about government policies and inability to get things done, particularly with the fiscal cliff, the results of the election and the level of government debt, deficits and spending.”

Just 21% of the 1,668 qualified respondents indicated that they were optimistic or very optimistic about the U.S. economy in the next 12 months, down from 22% in the previous quarter. During the same period, however, respondents who were once neutral became more pessimistic. Forty-nine percent of respondents were pessimistic about the next 12 months, up from 40% in the third-quarter survey.

Economic optimism is one of several indicators that make up the CPA Outlook Index, which fell to 59—the lowest point since the third quarter of 2011. A score of 50 or more is generally considered positive. But the index dipped as each of its components—economic optimism, organizational optimism, expansion plans, revenue, profits, employment, IT spending, other capital spending, and training and development—hit a 12-month low.

The survey is available at


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